LAKE CHARLES – The Nicholls State University football team had opportunities to score against the stingy McNeese State defense, but the Colonels were limited to just a field goal and a late touchdown in a 20-10 loss in Southland Conference play Saturday at Cowboy Stadium.
The game between the two Top 25 teams was delayed one hour and 15 minutes due to lightning. The loss put No. 12/13-ranked Nicholls at 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the Southland, while No. 15/16 McNeese improved to 3-0 and 2-0 in league play. The win also extended the Cowboys’ home winning streak in the series to five games and they have now won 11 of the last 13 meetings.
Nicholls outgained McNeese on total offense, 362-280, but a 16-yard, one-play scoring drive to start the game set the tone for the Cowboys. The Colonels were held to three field-goal tries in the opening half, converting on just one and turned the ball over on downs deep in McNeese territory in the third.
McNeese used two touchdown passes by James Tabary, with his second coming early in the second quarter, to go ahead 14-0, and Cowboys led by two scores the rest of the way.
Chase Fourcade threw for 257 yards and a touchdown, which came in the final seconds from 2 yards to Dai’Jean Dixon to make the final. Dixon had a career-high eight receptions for 38 yards, while Damion Jeanpiere Jr. recorded his third career 100-yard game against the Cowboys, reaching 100 on four grabs.
Sully Laiche anchored a solid performance by the defense that limited McNeese to 20 points after the Cowboys scored 51 in their conference opener at HBU. Laiche had a team-high 11 tackles with 3.5 for loss, including one sack.
But the special teams woes continued for the Colonels right away on the opening kickoff with Stefano Guarisco fumbling the ball on the return. McNeese recovered and scored on the first play via a 16-yard touchdown catch by Lawayne Ross.
After two three-and-outs, Nicholls moved the ball through the air with receptions by Jeanpiere and Dixon. But like last week at Tulane, Lorran Fonseca came up short on a deep try from 49 yards.
Early in the second, McNeese scored on an 11-yard touchdown catch by Cyron Sutton from Tabary, who finished 14 of 19 for 133 yards and was sacked three times.
Fourcade and Jeanpiere hooked up again in the second, connecting on a 36-yard catch. The drive stalled at the McNeese 22, and Fonseca missed from 39 yards out.
Fonseca delivered on the next drive; however, making good on a 21-yard field goal. The Colonels used a 50-yard catch-and-run by Kendall Bussey down the sideline to move inside the 10. The Cowboy defense thwarted the drive, allowing only 3 yards and a pair of incompletions.
After keeping McNeese off the scoreboard in the second, the defense forced a turnover on a Kenny Dotson tackle at midfield with three minutes to go until the half. But Nicholls went three-and-out, and the teams went into the locker room with McNeese leading, 14-3.
In the third, Raborn kicked a 24-yard field goal on the opening drive to push the lead back to two touchdowns for the Cowboys. Fourcade used his legs on the next possession, rushing for 25 to fuel a 10-play drive, but on fourth-and-1 at the 18, he was tripped up short of the first down by B.J. Blunt. And to close out the quarter, Fourcade hit Jeanpiere for a 28-yard gain at midfield, but he was stripped of the ball, and McNeese recovered it.
For the final period, the Cowboys used a 42-yarder by Raborn for a 20-3 advantage. Nicholls put together a scoring drive late, capped on Dixon’s touchdown, but the onside attempt went out of bounds to close out the game.
Nicholls will host Sam Houston State for its first home game of the season, taking on the Bearkats at 3 p.m. Saturday in Thibodaux. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ and tickets can be purchased by calling the Nicholls Athletics Ticket Office at 985-448-4790.